Electoral Strategy of the Bahujan Samaj Party in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections

International Journal of Advanced Scientific Research and Management, Vol. 2 Issue 3, Mar 2017.
                                                                                                                 ISSN 2455-6378

    Electoral Strategy of the Bahujan Samaj
     Party in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections
                            Ravinder Kumar1 and Virender 2
           Research Scholar, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy,
                               Panjab University, Chandigarh, India
           Research Scholar, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy,
                               Panjab University, Chandigarh, India

                        Abstract                                  good show and government formation in Madhya
This paper is an attempt to explore the BSP’s                     Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh assembly
electoral strategy in the forthcoming general                     elections and in spite of entry of Priyanka Gandhi in
elections 2019. As it is well established that in the             the party, to disturb or weaken the ‘swarna’ or
parliamentary democracy the first past the post                   ‘upper caste vote bank’ of the BJP. The article
system i.e. relative votes secured are the marker of              argues that consolidation of dalit-Bahujan votes and
electoral victory, hence to address contemporary                  avoiding fragmentation of anti-BJP votes is the core
political realities the political parties change their            electoral strategy of the Bahujan Samaj Party. The
strategies time to time. Major shift in the electoral             paper also examines why the BSP is compelled to
strategies of the BSP are witnessed like pre-poll                 adopt such strategy and its challenges and
alliances, organizational changes, use of social                  implications in the electoral politics of the state and
media, etc. Since it had suffered major and                       in the national politics. It concludes that the strategy
unprecedented set back in the past elections in 2014              of the BSP is carefully thought out however not sure
and 2017; it has now fundamentally changed its very               shot for success as a number of variables determines
strategy of fighting elections on its own strength                electoral victory in highly competitive Indian
along with various other strategies. The multilateral             politics.
electoral strategy of the BSP is - projecting
Mayawati as 'PM candidate' for 2019 elections and                 Key words: Electoral politics, Mahagathbandhan,
making her as a candidate in parliamentary election;              Strategic isolation, Social engineering, Dalit-
social engineering of alliances particularly SC-ST,               Bahujan, Bahujan front politics
SC-OBC, and SC-OBC-minority or ‘Dalit-Bahujan’
alliance in different states viz. Chhattisgarh,                   1. Introduction
Haryana, Punjab; and most importantly in Uttar                    Election being the hallmark of democracy is a
Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh; isolation of the                      mechanism by which people choose their
Congress in Uttar Pradesh; anti-BJP, anti-Congress                representatives at regular intervals and change them
strategy to gain from disillusionment of the                      if they wish to do so. Hence, change and retention of
electorate with the BJP and the Congress and to form              incumbent government is visible post-elections.
an anti-BJP and anti-congress front or third front to             Regular elections are seen as democracy at work,
present third alternative before Indian people;                   however in broader aspects proper functioning of the
exposing the anti-dalit and anti-reservation stand of             constitutional and statutory institutions, pro-people
the BJP; entry in the social media domain                         bureaucratic machinery, effective media, enlightened
(Mayawati’s twitter account); increasingly giving                 citizenry, etc. are included in it (democracy). When
more responsibility to youth in the organization, etc.            one talk of election and electoral politics one thing
Political scientists regarded this pre-poll alliance              that automatically comes in mind the meaning and
shift as a radical shift post volatile years of 1990’s.           relevance of it. Electoral politics deals with the ideas
The strategic isolation of the Congress from                      and actions behind the process of choosing by vote
‘Mahagathbandhan’ in politically critical Uttar                   (elections) among candidates to govern the state.
Pradesh is a deliberate and well thought-out ‘tactical’           Electoral politics is a vital part of the democratic
strategy for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, despite its                functioning of the state. Being important components
International Journal of Advanced Scientific Research and Management, Vol. 2 Issue 3, Mar 2017.
                                                                                                                  ISSN 2455-6378

of democracy, all the political parties employ                     the elections. The numerical strength of SCs, STs
different electoral strategies to gain the confidence of           and OBCs plus minority in India becomes 85 percent
the electorate and win political power to implement                of India’s population, and in democracy, numbers
its agenda. The game plan of every political party is              matter the most. Hence, to leverage the numerical
unique though they may have some common                            majority pre-poll alliances are made, designed and
elements viz. making alliances, exposing past and                  redesigned, the same strategy is adopted by the BSP
present misdeeds or corruption of rivals, attacking                as it is well established that patronage and ethnic
the top leadership, arousing aspirations among voters              head counts are responsible for the BSP’s electoral
through manifesto, promises and taking their issues,               success1. To avoid the fragmentation of anti-BJP
consolidating its vote bank, etc.                                  voter alliance will hold a key component to defeat
                                                                   the BJP. Add up votes of SP-BSP-RLD would
                                                                   surpass the votes secured by the BJP. If we examine
2. Electoral strategy of the BSP: The                              the previous Lok Sabha elections 2014 the BJP had
multidimensional electoral strategy of the                         42.2 percent vote share and the SP and BSP had 22.2
BSP is:                                                            and 19.6 percent respectively. The BJP won 71 seats
                                                                   and SP and BSP won 5 and zero respectively. With
2.1 . Projecting Mayawati as 'PM candidate' for                    simple arithmetic of SP-BSP collective vote it would
2019 elections and making her a candidate in the                   have won 41 and the BJP 37. And if 9 percent vote
Lok Sabha elections – This projecting provides the                 swing against the BJP happens in the coming
worker and supporter of the party provide a morale                 election in favour of the Mahagathbandhan it would
boost and motivation to work hard for the party.                   win 65 seats and the BJP 12, asserted psephologist
Many leaders like H.D. Deve Gowda, Ajit Jogi,                      Yogendra Yadav2. Hence consolidation of dalit-
Rajkumar Saini accepted Mayawati as a prime                        Bahujan votes and avoiding fragmentation of anti-
ministerial candidate for their alliance and other                 BJP votes is the core electoral strategy of the
leaders like Akhilesh tough not openly accepted but                Bahujan Samaj Party.
said UP will give a new prime minister in 2019.
Other leaders may join the bandwagon if none of the                2.3. Anti-BJP and anti-Congress strategy - To
BJP and the congress gets more than at least 160                   gain from disillusionment of the electorate with the
seats and Mayawati has more than 30 seats, it seems                BJP and the Congress and to form an anti-BJP and
hypothetical but all know that politics is the game of             anti-congress front or third front to present third
n number of possibilities. Therefore, to unite dalit               alternative before Indian people. The BSP strategy is
votes and to energise cadre and organisation                       to exposing the anti-dalit and anti-reservation stand
Mayawati’s PM candidature may prove beneficial to                  of the BJP and congress. As in the BSP leader’s
the party.                                                         speeches and arguments the congress’s rule hadn’t
                                                                   provided people the basic needs of life, and their
2.2. BSP’s social engineering of alliances or                      corruption has led the Dalit-Bahujan people under
mutually beneficial inter-caste alliances -                        poverty, ignorance and life of humiliation. Both
Particularly the SC-ST, SC-OBC, and SC-OBC-                        political parties are heavily condemned by BSP
minority or ‘Dalit-Bahujan’ alliance in different                  leaders for pro-rich and pro-elite orientation and anti-
states are formed. For example, pre-poll pact with                 poor and anti-dalit orientation. It is claimed that the
Ajit Jogi’s the Janta Congress Chhattisgarh (JCC) in               BJP marches ahead of the congress in exploiting the
Chhattisgarh, with Raj Kumar Saini’s the Loktantra                 masses and looting the public money. They are more
Suraksha Party (LSP) in Haryana, forming the                       dangerous than congress as they polarize society on
Punjab Democratic Front (PDA) in Punjab; and most                  the communal basis. Mayawati, Kashiram in the
importantly with the Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar                 past3, openly called the BJP – nagnath and the
Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand, and talks                 congress – sanpnath and both didn’t and don’t act in
are underway in Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Since                   the interests of the downtrodden/dalits. The BSP is
caste, religion, region and other factors affects the              trying to harness the disillusionment of people with
electoral outcome. Caste is a stark reality of Indian              both the parties in the upcoming general elections.
society, it predominantly influence the whole                      2.4. Strategic isolation of the Congress in Uttar
electoral process rather social, economic and                      Pradesh - Congress is only a marginal player in
political process in India. Caste Politics or Identity             Uttar Pradesh and also not to forget that Congress is
Politics plays vital role in defining and setting                  not in the same condition as in 20094. Their
agenda in elections, for example the issue of                      organization is weak though attempt has been made
reservation, the backlog, the atrocities against the               to revive the party by introducing Priyanka Gandhi
dalit or SCs and STs, etc are crucial factors which                as General Secretary and making in-charge of the
determines the course of politics and win and loss in              eastern UP. It is said form the congress that front

International Journal of Advanced Scientific Research and Management, Vol. 2 Issue 3, Mar 2017.
                                                                                                                 ISSN 2455-6378

foot playing or aggressive electoral campaign will be             3. The compelling reasons for                              the
Also, to disturb or weaken the ‘swarna’ or ‘upper                 strategy
caste vote bank’ of the BJP, since the congress party
generally got more votes of the swarnas than other                3.1. The biggest reason is winnablity and to defeat
community in UP. This divides the upper caste votes               the BJP: The politics is nothing without realistic
between the congress and the BJP which otherwise                  character. In Indian parliamentary democracy, the
would solely shift towards the BJP if the congress                electoral politics is the game of the first-past-the-post
would have been the part of Mahagathbandhan. It is                system wherein the candidate who receives the most
strategic in a sense that the SP-BSP alliance has left            votes wins. Winnability determines the present and
two seats Raebareli and Amethi is left for the                    future strategies of any political party. Political
congress where no candidate will be fielded by the                power is captured by winning the elections and
SP-BSP alliance to support the top leadership of the              elections are won by accepting the ground realities
congress, hence they not to entangle in Uttar                     and then formulating strategies to fail counter
Pradesh. Priyanka’s entry may disturb the Brahmin                 strategies of competing political parties. The strategy
vote bank of the BJP and the muslim vote bank of                  of pre-poll alliance in the different states is a step in
the Mahagathbandhan, however, whom it hurt the                    that direction. Moreover, the vote share of the most
more, the more beneficial for the other but not to the            formidable BJP is far ahead of the SP and BSP
congress as it would need at least 40 percentage of               individual vote share. They can’t win elections by
votes to win Lok Sabha elections this time in UP,                 contesting separately in most seats. As in the 2014
since largely two corner contest in almost 70 seats as            elections the BJP vote share was 42.3 and SP-BSP
the Congress have pocket of regional influence                    was 41.8. In addition to that RLD is also the part of
though a number of disgruntled SP-BSP leaders                     alliance. Hence it will form a formidable alliance
joined it after being denied Lok Sabha ticket. The                against the BJP and the tally 71 of BJP may
dent of upper caste votes in the BJP, if happens, will            drastically reduce to 12 if 9 percent vote swing
probably      blossom     the    prospect     of    the           happens in favour of the alliance.
Mahagathbandhan and a heavy loss to the BJP.                      3.2. The declining performance and pressure of
2.5. Entry in the social media domain -                           workers: Electoral failure or defeat demotivates
Mayawati’s twitter account5 – for direct political                workers; electoral success or win motivate them. An
communication and to counter its rivals. There is                 energetic and motivated cadre/worker is vital factor
huge role of social media in election campaigning                 for party’s future prospects. The continuous and
and a tool to connect its electorate and vote bank                humiliating defeats of the BSP raised many questions
directly with authentic information, high speed and               on party’s strategy and leadership. Subsequently, the
at mass level. Emergence of this understanding in the             party’s think tank decided to forge an alliance with
BSP is result of continuous pressure from its                     likeminded parties in different states after rethinking
supporters who have a long pending demand and                     of fighting election on own strength in the changing
also due to negative role of mainstream media on                  times. Even the BSP was ready to enter into alliance
party’s growth. As one knows that in the age of ICT,              with the Congress in 2018 assembly elections of
social media has emerged a powerful tool to inform,               Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. However it was
educate and enlighten people, the BSP is not willing              explicitly said by Mayawati that pre-poll alliance
to leave behind to leverage the social media                      with congress would be possible to defeat the BJP
platforms like twitter, whatsapp and web portals.                 only if the Congress party offers respectable number
6. More responsibility to youth – The BSP is                      of seats to the BSP. That didn’t happen and both
increasingly giving more responsibility to youth in               entered electoral battle separately and the Congress
the organization. This is indicated by its leadership’s           just toppled the BJP in Madhya Pradesh in a faceoff
decision to allot 50 percent of organizational posts to           but didn’t get the majority and in Rajasthan it was
the youth workers6. This shift reflects that it is now            just one mark short of majority. The pressure exerted
focusing on youth which is more assertive, educated               by BSP’s workers laid the path of pre-poll alliances
and sharp minded than the previous generation. A                  in various states, successful in some and not in
committee of 23 active youths at every booth is                   others. Similar case occurred with the party’s and
formed to have a sharp eye on each booth in Uttar                 Mayawati’s presence on the social media domain as
Pradesh and other electorally significant regions.                the youth supporter wanted a direct, speedier and
This strategy derives its reasoning owing to huge                 original communication with the top leadership.
influx of the first time voters every five year and               3.3. Rise of Hindutva Political Regime and
Indian youth particularly more active in elections and            Hindutvaisation of dalits: The guise of glorifying
huge impact on election results.                                  Hindu Dharma for retaining Dalits in the Hindu fold.
                                                                  How that has been done vis-à-vis dalits is through
                                                                  practising the Containment policy or the managerial

International Journal of Advanced Scientific Research and Management, Vol. 2 Issue 3, Mar 2017.
                                                                                                                  ISSN 2455-6378

approach of traditional politics wr.t. Dalits as                   form the state government but it didn’t last long and
indicated by Pratap Bhanu Mehta7. Extended                         the BSP withdrawn support to Mulayam’s
patronage to the Dalits in the form of welfare                     government. Hence there is no guarantee of long
policies, reservations and by accommodating                        term political relations since caste mentality
prominent Dalit figures and local leaders or co-                   prevalent in UP with may detract alliance to go long
option of leaders by the established political parties             or even function. However its short-term mutual
like the Congress                                                  benefit will surely be cashed by both the parties. In
3.4. Survival at stake: The rival political parties                2019 the time has changed a lot and the dynamics of
particularly the BJP and the Congress are accusing                 politics, players has changed, role reversal taking
the BSP getting into the alliances in different states             place but certainly chemistry of alliance leaders and
to survive itself in the political arena. However this             workers is looking optimistic and amicable. The
hypothesis of survival at stake has some truth but is              mingling of workers and party cadre is uphill task for
immature and has no buyer except the elite media                   both the BSP and SP. The bitter history and in the
and rivals. The hypothesis seems immature, fictitious              caste rigid Uttar Pradesh society vote transfer
and biased as it not based on relevant facts and the               capacity to each other is also vital to beat and
other main reason is despite debacle of 2014 general               conquer the BJP, particulary true for the SP
elections and 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections,               supporters as the BSP’s ability is well known for its
the 2018 assembly elections of Madhya Pradesh,                     vote transfer capacity but not true with the SP.
Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh it won 10 seats which is                Two, expansion of the social base: the main reason
greater than the 2013 election (8 seats) results in the            for the BSP’s limited success outside Uttar Pradesh.
same states and the combined vote share remain                     The alleged tag of dalits’ party by the rival political
intact similar to the previous election. Even in the               parties is formidable question to counter particularly
debacle of Uttar Pradesh its core voter i.e. dalit voter           beyond Uttar Pradesh. Christophe Jaffrelot 9 had well
had not swayed despite all attempts by its rival the               argued that the BSP is no longer a dalit party in Uttar
BJP and Congress. Yet having said that threats are                 Pradesh in 1998, however it is still a dalit based
visible since, multiple and continuous defeats                     political party outside Uttar Pradesh amply reflected
demoralise and demotivate party cadre in addition to               in party’s vote share and support base in other states
erosion in credibility and question mark on the                    of India.
capability of its leader. That ultimately put in danger            Three, leadership vacuum in the states other than
the political party’s existence if timely diagnose and             Uttar Pradesh: No national level leader is clearly
treatment of ailment of defeat is not undertaken.                  visible or present in BSP except the party supremo
                                                                   Mayawati herself, this fact undermine its expansion
4. Challenges                                                      and electoral success as well as non-creation of
In electoral politics electoral win is not an easy task            second rug of leadership.
to accomplish since highly competitive politics is the             Four, the unfavorable media: the elite character of
hallmark of Indian elections. The caste conscious                  media and corporatisation of media generally portray
voting though a reality in India, but many other                   the BSP and its leaders with bad, ridiculed and
factors like resource, perception of leader,                       prejudiced mindset. The Brahamanism or the upper
development, candidate, religion, media, etc. are also             caste dominancy in media especially in the TV
important which affects election ends. Even if pre-                broadcasting and print media (newspapers,
poll alliances are there but electoral strategy if not             magazines etc) most of the time go against the
well thought out and carefully implemented the                     interest of the BSP as it sensationalise and scandalize
proposed gains vary and may even drastically away                  the BSP party and its leaders. A section of media has
from expected. The same is true with the BSP as the                been operating propaganda against the BSP alleged
BJP, Congress and other regional parties are trying                by its leaders. Kanshi Ram and Mayawati10 openly
hard to fail its master plan. Some of the important                criticized media and called it ‘manuwadi’ media in
challenges before the BSP strategists are as under:                his/her speeches and campaign rallies to highlight the
                                                                   character of media in India. To the BSP, the relevant
One, arithmetic is right but chemistry in question:                question is how to deal with media which are
precondition for alliance to work is chemistry                     characterized as an agent of playing politics of
between the workers or cadre of the party. In other                information, having elitist character; however, with
words For example, Misra8 in ‘Limits of OBC-Dalit                  BSP’s presence in social media domain that handicap
Politics’ highlighted the contradictions and                       would somewhat relieved, and also the party is
antagonisms of OBC and dalit politics in Uttar                     educating the masses to be aware and vigil of the
Pradesh and asserted that caste rigidity in UP                     media.
become a roadblock to OBC-dalit politics. In 1993
the SP-BSP pre-poll alliance though managed to

International Journal of Advanced Scientific Research and Management, Vol. 2 Issue 3, Mar 2017.
                                                                                                                 ISSN 2455-6378

5. Implications of the BSP electoral                              assertion replicates in political consequences.
strategy and Indian politics                                      However the whole hypothesis rest on the success of
                                                                  pre-poll alliances of the BSP.
First, pan India non-BJP, non-Congress alliance:                  Five, if failure of its strategy and party’s probable
An anti-BJP, anti-Congress politics may emerge in                 disintegration: A repetitive defeat mars future
the time to come. A new era in Indian politics                    growth in general. In politics, repetitive failure
wherein the regional political parties collaborate with           brings division.
each other to defeat both the BJP and the Congress
provided the pre-poll alliances of the BSP bring fruit.           6. Conclusion:
Thus political parties especially those having non-               The main rival political parties like the BJP and the
upper caste leadership would unite on pan India basis             Congress would call its (BSP) strategy as a strategy
to counter both the mainstream political parties.                 for existential survival, particularly by the BJP.
Second, ‘Bahujan Front Politics’ at the state and                 These political parties try to convince people not to
national level: Whether these alliances are a short               waste their vote by voting for the BSP. Though
lived phenomenon or stay long in politics is a million            BSP’s success and future prospects are a function of
dollar question as politics is the game of opportunity,           formation of pan-India anti-BJP, anti-Congress
opportunism prevails, and in politics there is no                 alliance and winning the trust of disillusioned
permanent friend and foe. Having said that such type              electorates to the BJP and the Congress, yet
of alliance politics have tendency which could give               presenting itself as alternative at the centre is an
birth to ‘Bahujan Front Politics’ in the different                uphill task before the party. The strategy of the BSP
states of India wherever dalit and backward caste                 for the forthcoming general election seems carefully
based political parties have electoral presence,                  thought out and well planned; however, in electoral
significant or less significant. The reasoning behind             politics nothing is final until last vote is counted.
this lies in the fact, one, congress’ reluctance to
defeat the BJP by allying with smaller political                  References
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International Journal of Advanced Scientific Research and Management, Vol. 2 Issue 3, Mar 2017.
                                                                                                            ISSN 2455-6378

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